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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

December 5, 2019

Career Development

Four strategies to support workforce development.

Online universities can support workforce development through human connection.

Human-to-human connections are becoming increasingly difficult and less frequent as technology continues to disrupt our lives. While it may seem that technology is all-consuming at times, interpersonal communication is becoming more valuable in the job market. Therefore, skills with the highest value are those that are uniquely human, such as leadership, effective communication and management. Those who possess these skills will be best prepared for the future workforce. 

While human-to-human skills are in high demand for certain industries, job automation is a real concern. Workers without college degrees are at a particular risk of losing their jobs due to automation. This causes concern of an uncertain future for those entering the workforce with the discrepancy between the skills U.S. workers have and the skills required by U.S. businesses to remain globally competitive. 

This presents a unique challenge for higher-ed institutions, including online universities, in preparing students for the workforce as one-third of university students expect to study online. With this, here are four strategies to keep human connection strong and support better workforce development.

Two women, discussing over a laptop

Ensure faculty engagement through mentoring and resource-sharing. 

Faculty play a vital role in students’ success, and their responsibility goes far beyond teaching whether in a traditional university setting or in an online setting. Ensuring engagement can be even more important in online education due to the lack of face-to-face interaction between professors and their students. Online faculty should be accessible to their students and provide mentorship on an individual basis. It is a professor’s responsibility to provide educational and professional resources and have a continuous presence throughout a students’ education. This can be done by scheduling frequent check-ins with students to make them feel seen and heard and address any concerns they may have. This will encourage students to become more involved in their courses and grow their confidence to succeed by knowing that others are invested in their success.

Encourage collaboration and community by providing opportunities for student-to-peer connection.

When it comes to healthy human connection, feeling part of a community and having a support system is essential. This can be difficult for students earning their degrees online as they do not get to experience interpersonal interaction with their peers. Luckily, the evolution of technology for universities can allow for more interaction. Chat rooms, message boards and online learning communities are a few ways to to create that sense of community and support for students with their peers. They also create connection points and open the door for information and resource sharing.

Create field experience opportunities by incorporating dynamic training programs.

The flexibility and affordability of online programs is a huge driver for many students. Since most students earning their degrees at online universities are adult learners working full-time or part-time, creating hands on learning experiences can be immensely valuable. This gives students the opportunity to share what they’ve learned in the workplace and allows them to interact with peers, grow their professional network and gain additional experience while completing their degree.

Utilize strategic partnerships for student networking.

Strategic partnerships allow students to connect with and learn from potential employers, mentors and colleagues. These partnerships are mutually beneficial as they allow the employers to explore ways for their employees to address certain needs and advance their careers by creating new opportunities for their people to pursue.

A longer form version of this thought leadership piece originally ran on Campus Technology.

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